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Home: Dubai Film Festival 2008: Day 5: Blindness

Fernando Meirelles' Blindness is a film depicting a social experiment gone wrong. In essence, it is the Stanford prison experiment for the blind, where groups are formed, one of them taking on the role of the oppressor and the rest become the oppressed. It doesn't work. The setting for the film appears to be those great tales about post-apocalyptic futures (though the film is based on a prize-winning novel and not necessarily set in the future) but the inspiration for the film seems to be your typical dull and unsubtle zombie movie. Its ideas are a mish mash of elements of horror and sci-fi but it degenerates into human depravity in order to shock and awe the audience. The film is never meant to be pleasant, but it doesn’t succeed at being memorable either.

In dealing with the outbreak of a disease referred to as the ‘white blindness’, director Meirelles uses innovative visual trickery to create both tension and interest. We get many sequences where we ‘see’ the way a blind person in the film would see, but these are both overdone and done far too many times. All of this doesn’t even start to reflect the problems of film and script. The individuals afflicted are rounded up and sent into isolation at a decrepit, abandoned hospital, where the centre piece of the film occurs and where everything going for the film starts to breakdown. As the numbers pile up, people align themselves to a group, forming sub-societies and electing leaders or representatives. Mark Ruffalo (like all other character, remaining nameless, in a move of gimmickry) is one such leader, Gael Garcia is another.

In time, and with food supplies running out, one group (abusing their advantage of having guns and a real blind person in their midst) commence the exploits. They stock existing supplies, giving them out in exchange for valuables at first, and eventually trading them for women. This is where the problem becomes glaring for the film – it reduces everything to archetypes. People are bad. They want food. They want sex. It’s primitive not just in its failure to be believable but also unnecessary. It represents nihilism of opinion that never comes across as balanced or objective, showing us that a disability is enough to make people become wicked and evil. In scenes of showy, sick perversion we get multiple rapes – this is how it would really happen, the film urges to convince, but underneath it all you sense a severe pointlessness. This year’s Hunger, a supremely satisfying film, gave us several scenes of unwatchable torture and extreme prison brutality culminating in a hunger strike that lasted till death, but that film was anchored in purpose and meaning. Blindness is the converse of such meaningful filmmaking.

In its futility, reflected by its conclusion, Blindness also closely follows a new trend highlighted by films like this year’s Happening which suggests that you can tell a story about an event that begins and end without reason. If there is never any reason for us to invest in, why should we care? - by Faizan Rashid [Rated 2 out of 5]

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